Sunday, March 30, 2014

Study showing that a significant percentage of boys and young men are victims of sexual coercion needs to be rejected as dangerous and inappropriate

Bryana H. French of the University of Missouri has quarterbacked a study, found here, concluding that four-in-10 U.S. high school boys and young college men say they were coerced into sex or sexual behavior and 95 percent said a female acquaintance was the aggressor.

This sounds alarming until the results are explained. The study shows that 18 percent report of the sexual coercion occurred by physical force. That, of course, is unacceptable, and French is to be commended for shining a light on it.

Seven percent of the boys say they were compelled after being given alcohol or drugs. Were all of the boys who fit this description incapacitated? If so, that, too, is unacceptable. If not, the finding is problematic.

Twenty-six percent describe unwanted seduction by sexual behaviors. This, in itself, is scarcely grounds for concluding that the boys were "victims" of sexual misconduct.

The most problematic aspect of the study is that a full 31 percent of the boys and say that their victimization was by verbal coercion.

We have previously explained here why "sexual coercion" -- shorthand to describe the boorish act of nagging for sex -- is not properly considered sexual misconduct. Since it is not sexual misconduct when young men practice it, it is not sexual misconduct when young women practice it. Read our explanation before assuming we are incorrect.  The movement to punish young men for "sexual coercion" on college campuses is a policy bordering on pathology, and that policy should not be embraced merely because the genders are switched.

Men and boys are victims of all manner of sexual and non-sexual abuse that is ignored because of their gender. There is enough legitimate male victimization to focus on without applauding a study that manufactures it from whole cloth. We would do well not to embrace a policy that has its roots in an extremist feminist tradition that aims to make innocent men criminals.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The presumptively innocent deserve protection regardless of their gender

The New York Daily News identified a female teacher by name after she was accused of repeated sexual liaisons with a 14-year-old boy. If she is innocent, the reputational harm of the disclosure likely will be enough to harm her for the rest of her life.

 Typically, the presumptively innocent subject of such stories are men or boys, but the same concerns should apply to women as well. Last year we made our case for anonymity for men and boys accused of rape. The same considerations apply to women.

The comments under the story about the teacher are disturbing and suggest that this country is in need of serious education about these issues. Let's start here:
Guaranteed this kid and his mom made the whole thing up hoping to collect the ghetto lottery. It's gonna be the teacher who get rich when it turns out that she was never alone with the kid.
Yes, because black people are prone to make up false statutory rape claims. And as we all know, the wrongly accused get rich after they are cleared.

The response to that last comment was this gem:
I doubt it. If he makes it up he doesn't say it happened 10 times. Kids, especially boys, don't think that way; they're not devious enough. A girl's imagination is light years ahead of a boy's. He's more than likely telling the truth.
Nothing like a little misogyny when we're dealing with a serious issue.

And here's the one we've all been waiting for -- the one where we hear it's "different" for boys:
I guess you and I were very different at 14. If she forced him or abused him, then it's horrible. But it's a totally different dynamic with teenage boys and teenage girls, stupid to pretend otherwise. If he was having fun, good for him. I'm always suspicious of adults who are so anxious to protect the innocence of teenage boys.
And we couldn't have a story like this without someone assuming guilt:
All sexual predators should have their face pictured in the paper so that everyone can see who they are. They can be publicly shamed and you, will know when they move next door to you and your family!!! Either way, she will get probation- If it were a man, he would get 10 yrs in jail!!
Finally, there's this:
I feel bad for the husband. The poor guy was not only in the dark about this, but his wife took up with a 14 year old. Wow, what a blow to the ego, if true.
That's right, the real victim isn't the boy (if he was repeatedly statutorily raped) or the woman (if she was wrongly accused of repeated statutory rape), it's the woman's partner -- because what a blow to his ego if his partner took up with a boy!

It would be laughable if the irrationality weren't so wide-spread.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fear-mongering about rape has some college women disturbed

Carleton University alumna Camille Baello and student Jaclyn Ng said they were crossing the picket line of striking campus security workers earlier this month when one of the strikers yelled out to them: "Hey I wouldn't go onto campus if I were you," one of them said, "there's a large chance you may get sexually assaulted."

Baello said they were disturbed by how casually the comments were made and how nobody came to their defense. They added they've heard from other female students who said they'd experienced something similar while crossing the picket line.

If the women are reporting what occurred accurately, the comments were inappropriate. Fear-mongering about rape should never be used as a political weapon.

But the discomfort of the women is curious given the statistics that are frequently and casually cited that purportedly show one-in-four or one-in-five college women will be sexually assault while in college. If those statistics are accurate, isn't it correct that "there's a large chance you may get sexually assaulted"? And why aren't college women in general disturbed by this threat?

Imagine if colleges were required by law to put wording on the literature they disseminate warning women that one in five of them will be sexually assaulted. It is our guess that college women, and their parents, would feel mightily disturbed by that. We suspect that any such legal requirement would prompt colleges to insist on more rigorous research about the prevalence of sexual violence on campus.

A few years ago, Heather MacDonald famously discussed what would happen if one-in-four college women were actually victims of sexual violence:
If the one-in-four statistic is correct—it is sometimes modified to “one-in-five to one-in-four”—campus rape represents a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. No crime, much less one as serious as rape, has a victimization rate remotely approaching 20 or 25 percent, even over many years. The 2006 violent crime rate in Detroit, one of the most violent cities in America, was 2,400 murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants—a rate of 2.4 percent. The one-in-four statistic would mean that every year, millions of young women graduate who have suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience. Such a crime wave would require nothing less than a state of emergency—Take Back the Night rallies and 24-hour hotlines would hardly be adequate to counter this tsunami of sexual violence. Admissions policies letting in tens of thousands of vicious criminals would require a complete revision, perhaps banning boys entirely. The nation’s nearly 10 million female undergrads would need to take the most stringent safety precautions. Certainly, they would have to alter their sexual behavior radically to avoid falling prey to the rape epidemic.

None of this crisis response occurs, of course—because the crisis doesn’t exist.
Read the rest here: http://www.city-journal.org/2008/18_1_campus_rape.html

As for fear-mongering about rape, when it is used by the right people, it seems to be acceptable. Back in 2011, U.S. Vice President Biden engaged in a little good old fashioned fear-mongering when he said that if the GOP refused to pass President Obama's economic stimulus plan that would pump lots of money into police forces, Flint Michigan's rape rate would rise. When a reporter questioned Biden about the propriety of fear-mongering about rape to pass the economic stimulus plan, the Vice President bristled: "Let's get it straight, guy, don't screw around with me. Listen to me. I said rape was up three times in Flint, they're the numbers. Go look at the numbers. Murder's up, rape is up, burglaries are up. That's exactly what I said."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Oppression Olympics has no place in rape advocacy

In a comment under Caroline Kitchens' opinion on "rape culture" in Time, the staff of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault says this: ". . . false reporting is NOT a problem, actually only 2-8% . . .."

Even accepting the accuracy of that number (which erroneously suggests that 92-98 percent of all rape claims are actual rapes and doesn't bother to acknowledge that the majority of rape claims can't be determined to be actual rapes, misidentified rapes, or false rape claims), 2 to 8 percent is a very significant number.

How is it proper to raise awareness about rape by trivializing a completely different problem that victimizes significant numbers of people? Since when did it become fair game to dismiss out of hand a problem that destroys lives?

The comment is insensitive to the community of the wrongly accused, and it has no place in advocacy for rape victims.

Monday, March 24, 2014

16-year-old commits suicide after being falsely branded a rapist by drug-dealing gang

A schoolboy hanged himself after he was falsely branded a rapist by fellow pupils after pulling out of a playground drug dealing racket, an inquest heard.

Tom Acton, 16, claimed that he was bullied into taking Ecstasy, amphetamines and cocaine in between lessons – yet when his mother, Gaynor, went to see staff at the 1,700 pupil Poynton High School and Performing Arts College in Cheshire, it was alleged that they refused to do anything about it.

When she withdrew the boy from school, false rumours began circulating which alleged the innocent teenager had tied a girl to a tree then sexually assaulted her.

It resulted in mobs of up to 30 angry youths targeting him in the street and turning up at the family’s front door saying they wanted to kill him and ‘get rid of the vermin’.

Tom began to self-harm with a blade and even carved the word ‘rapist’ into his leg. A friend had to stop him jumping from a railway bridge and he considered stepping into the path of heavy traffic.

On October 31, days before he was due to testify at the trial of one of the bullies, Tom was found hanged in his bedroom by his father.

Taken to Stepping Hill Hospital, he died on November 2. Tom’s organs were used to save the lives of eight people.The tragedy occurred just months after Tom gained nine GCSEs.

At an inquest in Warrington, Gaynor Acton questioned why the school refused to accept that they had a problem with drugs – even though the suspected drug dealer's own mother gave staff a similar story.

Mrs Acton, 45, a former company director of a hydraulics firm said that her son had been bullied into taking drugs within the school and had started taking them in 2009.

She added: ‘Tom was getting beat up a lot, being chased a lot, physically and mentally abused on a daily basis.
‘There were lots of police incidents recorded, school records. I tried working with the school to start with but the school wouldn't do anything about it, the next line was the police who again did nothing about it.

‘He was on Class A drugs that had been supplied to him from the lads inside of school, MDMA, amphetamines, cocaine, tablets. The only way we could get him to stop was to take him out of school; we took him out for three months.’

Asked by a coroner if he had explained to her why he took the drugs, Mrs Acton added: ‘Because if he didn't he would get bullied – if he did what everyone else did they would leave him alone.

‘Our doctor wrote to the school about peer pressure. But because he wasn't in school taking the drugs that's when they put it out on Facebook that he was a rapist.’

She said Tom had first started talking about suicidal thoughts in February 2013 and added: ‘There were lots of times when he said he was going to do something. He never showed me any of the self-harm. It was only what he had told me. He just couldn't sleep.

‘Tom couldn't have a girlfriend because he was 'a rapist'. That's how the rest of the people saw him in Poynton. He loved going out with girls before the rapist allegations.’

She also confessed to buying cannabis for Tom in an effort to help his recurring insomnia.

Dr David Ward, Tom's GP, said: ‘He told me that he was the victim of bullying and other children had offered him drugs and cigarettes. He said he was being intimidated by a school pupil that was actively seeking him out and verbally and physically abusing him.

‘His mum alleged they were spreading rumours that he was a dirty rapist – he was struggling to concentrate and his mood was low. He described it as being dead inside.

In July 2013, she said Tom left Poynton and began studying music production and sound technology at South Manchester College– but had never got over the false rape allegations.

‘He was very excited about leaving school, he couldn't wait to get away from it,’ said his mother. ‘He was ecstatic that he was leaving school and he wouldn't have to go back.

‘The bullies didn't know how to get to him since he left school.

‘But as regards the rape allegations, he was very upset and he never actually got over that. It was always on his mind.

‘I want to know, why, when presented with physical evidence of drug taking in the school, the school refused to accept it had a problem and no action was taken.’

Holly Spicer, Tom's ex-girlfriend, told the hearing: ‘About one month or so before his death I was talking to him in the kitchen and he was talking about the rapist allegations.

‘He said he cut 'rapist' into his leg and also showed the marks on his wrist. He said he was sorry, I can't quite remember why. He spoke how he was beginning to believe the rumours himself.’

Another friend Jake Dwight said that Tom had been feeling worried about testifying against teenager Thomas Greenwood, 18, who gave him a hiding whilst shouting: ‘If I see you, you are dead.’

Jake said: ‘I knew he was very worried about the upcoming case.

‘A couple of people sat at the gates waiting for him, his mother had to pick him up.

Tom's father Paul, a mechanical electrical manager, was asked if Tom had been anxious about the court case and he said: ‘Not for himself. We had spoken about it. I had asked him during the week if he was still okay with it and he said he was a bit nervous.’

He added that he had become a ‘prisoner in his house’ for three years before his death because of the rumours.

He said: ‘He was a very outgoing person, he made friends very easily. But because of the slander and the rumours that were spread he was isolated from everybody for the last three years of his life.

‘He never went around Poynton on his own, we had to pick him up and drop him off.’

Poynton High School headmaster David Waugh who was appointed after Tom left claimed school files showed the teenager had been both the ‘victim and the perpetrator’.

He said there were, ‘various incidents where it was six of one and half a dozen of the other’.

Mr Waugh said: ‘There were similar incidents where he had been bullied, where he had been verbally abused.

‘On a one to one basis Tom was exceptionally pleasant and engaged. His behaviour deteriorated in groups or class, or with a teacher he didn't get on with.’

Coroner Nicholas Rheinberg adjourned the inquest to call Sue Adamson, the former headmistress of Poynton, to answer Mrs Acton's claims.

At Macclesfield magistrates court in December Thomas Greenwood admitted assaulting Tom and was given a 12-month community order with 100 hours of unpaid work. There is no suggestion he was dealing drugs to Tom.

On Monday Fatimah Ahmed, 30, a former maths teacher at the same school, was given an 18-week sentence suspended for two years after she pleaded guilty to one count of concealing, disguising, converting, transferring or removing criminal property between November 2010 to February 2013 - relating to drugs money put into her bank account by her husband.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2585993/He-said-dead-inside-Inquest-hears-anguish-schoolboy-days-killing-falsely-branded-rapist-drug-dealing-gang.html

Friday, March 21, 2014

Despicable Fred Phelps disbarred after nine federal judges signed a complaint against him that charged he made false accusations against them

I would have to be a much better writer to adequately express my loathing and detestation of Fred Phelps. Comparing him to a "cesspool" would be unfair to cesspools. His mind-boggling hatred of gays, and a host of other people, was truly disturbing. This writer nails it.

But did you know that Phelps earned a law degree and worked as a civil rights lawyer -- but was was disbarred in 1989 after nine federal judges signed a complaint against him that charged he made false accusations against them?

"There's something wonderfully liberating . . . in the notion that you're 100 percent right," he once said.

Perhaps that's a lesson for all of us, including me -- to not be like Fred Phelps by thinking we have a monopoly on the truth.

"Rape culture" Extremists Coming Unhinged

I came across a news story today in The Journal of Queens University about an effort to de-ratify the "Queen’s Men’s Issues Awareness Society" at the Ontario college. The motion was made in the Alma Mater Society, a student association, to delegitimize the club on the grounds that it "further perpetuated rape culture and female oppression on campus."

The principal point of contention, it seemed, was that the club is set to host a men’s issues talk next week that will feature Janice Fiamengo, a University of Ottawa English professor. Prof. Fiamengo has contested the existence of "rape culture" at Canadian university campuses.

Here's a quote from the story: "In 2013, Fiamengo wrote in FrontPage Magazine that the campaign is 'unsettling for its insistence that no matter what a woman does — no matter how careless and irresponsible — she is always innocent.'”

The quote startled me. I had read Prof. Fiamengo's original article when it was published but when I saw the quote could not recall what it said. Was Prof. Fiamengo saying that women who drink themselves into oblivion are fair game to be raped? That quote, hanging by itself, seemed to say that. If so, any such suggestion is an affront to every civilized notion of decency. I sought out the quote in its original source, and was fully prepared to take issue with it in this blog in the strongest possible terms.

I found the original source, and the news story is misleading. What the news story left out, among other things, was this sentence immediately following the sentence it quoted: "While every reasonable person would agree that an unconscious woman cannot consent to sex, the various drunken scenarios raise complex issues of accountability."

Let's put the whole thing in context. Prof. Fiamengo was taking issue with the "Don't Be That Guy" poster campaign. Among other things, she wrote:
Despite the almost jocular wording in some of the posters, the insulting message is clear: young white men are so morally obtuse about sex and so prone to commit assault as to require a public finger wagging and calling-out: Don’t be that guy! Don’t be the guy who violates an unconscious or unwilling victim. The average white man is presumed to need elementary instruction in how to treat a woman. 
As a sexual assault prevention strategy, the posters’ efficacy is dubious—would a hardened rapist reform after seeing them? It seems unlikely—but they are undoubtedly effective in libeling all men as potential abusers despite the fact that the vast majority of men (94-95% according to feminist statistics) bear no blame for sexual assault. 
The poster campaign is unsettling for its insistence that no matter what a woman does—no matter how careless and irresponsible—she is always innocent. While every reasonable person would agree that an unconscious woman cannot consent to sex, the various drunken scenarios raise complex issues of accountability. One is not supposed to ask what a girl is doing getting herself so drunk that she needs assistance home (in fact, of course, part of the posters’ message is that such questioning is itself quasi-criminal—that encouraging women to take responsibility for their safety is misogynistic). 
The “anti-rape culture” of these posters is about prohibiting all such questions. One is not supposed to ask how, if a girl is so drunk that she needs help getting home, she will not be too drunk to remember that she did not consent. One is not supposed to ask how her drunken memories of what happened to her will be more reliable than the defendant’s report of what happened. Her drinking doesn’t mean anything, according to these posters, other than greater-than-usual vulnerability and greater-than-usual exemption. And what of the young man who is probably also drinking too much: does he not receive any exemption from responsibility? Apparently not. Although the posters squarely target the “guy” in question—whose guilt is the whole point—the creators of the posters aren’t interested in his feelings and responses, and certainly not in his potential difficulty in ascertaining consent.
Prof. Fiamengo ends her piece with the following:
Can you imagine “Don’t be that Muslim” in a campaign about Islamic jihad? Or “Don’t be that Aboriginal Mother” in a campaign about fetal alcohol syndrome? Or a poster campaign about black rapists? Critics would charge that an entire group of people was being unfairly targeted for the actions of a few—and in a manner more likely to induce public humiliation than behavioral change. The same is true of the image of white men promoted in “Don’t Be That Guy,” and yet men are not even allowed to say so without incurring further outrageous accusations.

It’s time for frank discussion and an end to the knee-jerk stigmatization of male sexuality.
Prof. Fiamengo's views on the non-existence of rape culture seem to be consistent with the views of Dr. David Lisak and RAINN and many, many others. The issue is hot in the United States right now. See here. Rape is the product of a criminal mind, not a guy acting out traditional notions of masculinity. Rapists are the problem, not "men." Masculinity needs no reconstruction, and to suggest that ours is a culture that tolerates, legitimizes, or engenders rape turns reality on its head. Ours is far more an anti-rape culture than a rape culture, and we have such an aversion to sexual violence that the typical masculine instinct is to punish -- and punish without mercy -- first, on the basis of nothing more than an accusation, and ask questions about guilt or innocence later. (We happen to be experts on that subject at this blog.) John Leo recently wrote this about "rape culture": "Stupid ideas spread when people who know better refuse to confront them."

The motion to de-ratify the club failed, as was proper. As if to prove the point that rape culture warriors are extremists whose views are not merely erroneous but irrational, the co-organizer of the group that wants to oust the men's club talked as if she were a character in an Onion lampoon of feminism. She accused the assembly of acting in accordance with “systemic oppression.” And here's a quote: “It’s built into the institution itself, so it’s not surprising,” she said. “It’s not outside of that oppression.”

From the "rape culture" silliness, to the conniptions over the sleepwalking man statue and snow penises, to accusing people of "rape apology" when they want to keep an open mind in rape cases, to the college administrator who wants to expel on the basis of a sex accusation -- is is any wonder that so few people, including so few women, identify as feminist?  The more these loony ideas are held up to the light, the quicker they unravel. Where are the rational voices in that movement? Or do we ask too much?

Cathy Young on the "Ban Bossy" campaign

"Let us by all means help girls fulfill their potential. But let's not invent oppression where it doesn't exist -- and let's not forget about boys who are falling behind."

Read Cathy's brilliant column in its entirety here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Brian Banks, poster child for false rape claim victims, is back in the news

Brian Banks, would-be NFL start and victim of an egregious false rape claim, is back in the news. He's out making a difference. He's sharing his story with high school students (see here) and he reached out to Jameis Winston (see here). We applaud Brian, and hope that his message is spread far and wide.

Brian's story is a horrifying primer on the injustices faced by too many young black men. We wrote a comprehensive post about Brian's story, and we received this comment from a staff attorney with the California Innocence Project: "Thank you for the amazing write-up on Brian's story. Your write-up is far more comprehensive than any I've seen on the web." Read it here.

TIME Opinion by Caroline Kitchens: It’s Time to End ‘Rape Culture’ Hysteria (cites COTWA)

Ms. Kitchen writes: "The nation's largest and most influential anti-sexual-violence organization is rejecting the idea that culture — as opposed to the actions of individuals — is responsible for rape." She cites COTWA here: ". . . a growing number of young men find themselves charged with rape, named publicly, and brought before campus judicial panels informed by rape culture theory.

This is must-reading for anyone concerned about the dual problems of rape and wrongful rape claims: http://time.com/30545/its-time-to-end-rape-culture-hysteria/

San Diego ACLU backs cameras on police officers' uniforms as a check on police misconduct and to protect cops against false accusations

In San Diego, police officers soon will be outfitted with cameras worn on their uniforms. Jeff Wergeles, the deputy director of the San Diego ACLU said the group usually doesn't like cameras because of concern about invasion of the public's privacy, but he noted that the cameras have the potential "to serve as a check on the abuse of power by police officers" and "to protect police against false accusations of abuse."

As with every profession, there are some bad cops, and we have chronicled police misconduct that undermines the rights of the innocent. Since police officers will have the power and the duty to activate the recording, there is a potential for the rare bad cop to fail to turn it on when he abuses his power.

More promising is that the cameras will protect police from unjust accusations of abuse or sexual misconduct. If you have never seen the video below, it is a chilling reminder of the power of a false rape claim. Without the video, we shudder to think where the police officer might be today:

 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Feminist blog doesn't understand the bias against male babysitters. Could it be due to the fear-mongering about males that the same blog helped spread?

Feministing is a blog that I very rarely ever read. But a link led me to it today, and a story posted there takes issue with the fact that only 3 percent of babysitters are males, but that the few males who are babysitters earn more than their female counterparts. While the blog post's chief point of contention is the pay gap, of course, Feministing takes issue with the bias against male babysitters:
As one mom in a parenting forum said, “I personally would have a hard time hiring a male babysitter for obvious reasons.” Right, because obviously guys couldn’t possibly be good caretakers. It’s not like they’re equally likely to have grown up with younger siblings or anything. And thank god, we don’t let guys become dads responsible for parenting their own children…Oh wait.
It is a nice sentiment, but the writer blinks at the real reason for the cultural bias against male babysitters. It isn't because parents assume young men won't know how to do the things young women babysitters do. It's because of the fear that a male babysitter will be a sexual predator.

If you want to read a chilling, and disgusting, article about this, read this -- but don't do it an empty stomach. It is infuriatingly sexist, but it's politically correct.

How did the unjust notion that young men are natural sexual predators creep into our culture? How did a large segment of our population come to fear half the population of planet earth and believe that rape is "normal" to men?

If Feministing wants an answer to those questions, it can start by searching its own archives. Read, for example, what Jessica Valenti, the former chief blogger at Feministing, wrote:
"Rape is part of our culture; it's normalized to the point where men who are otherwise decent guys will rape and not even think that it's wrong. And that's what terrifies me."
Valenti also said the following in that blog post: "I don’t think most rapists aren’t sociopaths." Translation: she thinks most rapists are sociopaths. But read the very next sentence: "Unfortunately, they’re 'normal' guys."  In other words, "normal guys" can be sociopaths and rapists.  This is from one of the principal purveyors of  so-called "rape culture."*See below

So when an "otherwise decent" college guy shows up at the front door applying for a babysitter job, where on earth would a mother get the idea that this guy might rape her child?

Do you understand why this blog is overjoyed that RAINN has denounced the notion of "rape culture"? (RAINN called views like Valenti's bullshit when it wrote: "Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime." This, of course, is what we've been preaching here for years. RAINN decries the "inclination to focus on particular . . . traits that are common in many millions of law-abiding Americans (e.g., 'masculinity'), rather than on the subpopulation at fault: those who choose to commit rape." It cites the work of Dr. David Lisak, just as this blog has done, in explaining that the notion of "rape culture" is inaccurate.)

Oh, and for the Feministing writer: the reason that the small percentage of male babysitters earn a little more than their female counterparts is probably due to the fact that these guys are superstars--there's no other way they'd be hired.
_____________________________

*There is circulating in the blogosphere a peculiar assertion that RAINN doesn't know what "rape culture" means. That, of course, is akin to asserting that the Vatican doesn't understand the Holy Spirit. What is "rape culture"? Here's Prof. KC Johnson, an undisputed authority on the subject:
Anyone who follows the contemporary media closely is doubtless familiar with the suddenly ubiquitous phrase "rape culture." In the context of higher education, the phrase implies two interlocking beliefs. First: despite crime statistics showing sexual assault (as well as all violent crimes) to be very uncommon on campus, colleges and universities are, in fact, hotbeds of rape (but not, it appears, of all other violent crimes). Second: despite the fact that most college faculties and nearly all administrations are extraordinarily sympathetic to the activists' position on gender issues, the campus culture over which these figures preside nonetheless--somehow--actually encourages the prevalence of rape at college.

That little, if any, evidence exists to sustain either of these beliefs has not deterred the "rape culture" believers; if anything, the lack of evidence for their claims appears to have emboldened them. Nor have they been deterred by the revelation of high-profile false rape claims on campus (ranging from the Duke lacrosse case to the Caleb Warner affair at North Dakota); if anything, the increasing build-up of sympathy for clearly railroaded males has intensified the rage of those who discern a "rape culture" on campus.
Read the rest of Prof. Johnson's essay here.

Reuters news reporting unjust to man accused of sexual assault

Language matters, especially in news stories about high profile sexual assault cases. Readers assume that reporters have investigated the case and have a handle on the truth, so the words chosen by the reporter are important because they guide the reader's assessment of the case.

In a Reuters news report by Tom Ramstack about the court martial trial of a Midshipman, the story includes this sentence: "Reuters does not report the names of sexual assault victims."

The story should have stated that "Reuters does not report the names of sexual assault accusers." While the story elsewhere uses the word "alleged" in connection with the supposed sexual assault, Reuters needs to be consistent. By branding the accuser a "victim," Reuters suggests -- subtly or not so subtly -- that the accused is guilty of sexual assault, and that is most unjust. We once persuaded the New York Times to change a story because of the same error. See here.

The American news media often does a very poor job of remaining objective in reporting allegations of sexual assault (the Hofstra debacle is a case in point). The Reuters article about the Midshipman reports on comments made by the prosecutor in his opening statement of the trial. It would have been helpful if Reuters had made it clear to its readers that such comments are not evidence in any sense, and that the prosecution will have the burden of supporting those assertions with actual evidence at trial. Many cases are lost because the prosecution is unable to support allegations made in opening arguments with evidence.

Prof. Alan Dershowitz, a titan of criminal law, has made a persuasive case against anonymity. Here's what he wrote about the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case: "The prosecution presented its case in public as if there were no doubt about the alleged victim’s credibility or the complete guilt of the alleged offender. In fact, one very important implication of the Strauss-Kahn case was this: the press is dead wrong not to publish the names of alleged rape victims. It is absolutely critical that rape be treated like any other crime of violence, that the names of the alleged victims be published along with the names of the alleged perpetrators, so that people who know the victim or know her reputation can come forward to provide relevant information. The whole manner in which this case was handled undercuts the presumption of innocence, and the same goes for many other cases like it. By withholding the name of the alleged victim while publishing perp photos of the alleged assailant, the press conveys a presumption of guilt. The next time I have to defend a case where there’s any chance of a perp walk, I’m going to federal court to demand an injunction against it."

Dershowitz previously said this on the subject: "People who have gone to the police and publicly invoked the criminal process and accused somebody of a serious crime such as rape must be identified." Moreover: "In this country there is no such thing and should not be such a thing as anonymous accusation. If your name is in court it is a logical extension that it should be printed in the media. How can you publish the name of the presumptively innocent accused but not the name of the accuser?"

Feminist Naomi Wolf has many interesting arguments why rape accusers shouldn't be anonymous. Among other things: "It is wrong – and sexist – to treat female sex-crime accusers as if they were children, and it is wrong to try anyone, male or female, in the court of public opinion on the basis of anonymous accusations. Anonymity for rape accusers is long overdue for retirement."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

RAINN deserves our support

RAINN is the leading organization opposing sexual violence in the world. We urge everyone to donate to RAINN hereRAINN has written a letter to the White House that every person of good will should applaud. It addresses head-on the problem of rape -- a problem that should never be ignored even by those seeking to give voice to the wrongly accused -- and it debunks the notion of "rape culture":

"Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime."

This is what we've been preaching here for years. RAINN decries the "inclination to focus on particular . . . traits that are common in many millions of law-abiding Americans (e.g., 'masculinity'), rather than on the subpopulation at fault: those who choose to commit rape." It cites the work of Dr. David Lisak, just as this blog has done, in explaining that the notion of "rape culture" is inaccurate.

Rape is not caused by "rape culture" or masculinity. It's caused by sociopaths who rape. To assert that doesn't lessen the harm to rape victims, it simply makes clear that "redefining masculinity" is not the solution.

Persons who assume this blog apologizes for rapists obviously don't actually read what we write. Every civilized society must strive to eradicate heinous criminality by punishing offenders, but it also must insure that the innocent aren't punished with them. The latter concern typically is absent from the public discourse, and that's what we try to address, but we must never trivialize the other half of that balance, either.

It is unfortunate that Jessica Valenti and her ilk have chosen to part company with RAINN on this critical issue. It's like an angry, dissident priest attacking the Vatican because the Vatican doesn't support his outdated, hateful view that "The Jews" are responsible for Jesus' death. Valenti is stuck in a 1960s time-warp, still waving at a feminist parade that has long since passed her by, a feminism marked by a divisive, pathological disdain for the "masculinity" common to most men. RAINN's letter echoes comments we've made on this blog many times, and it evinces very clearly who is the extremist, and who are the adults at the table on this issue. Jessica Valenti engenders disrepute of feminism. If you need further proof of that, see here. Everyone who believes in gender equality needs to move away from her divisive views.

"Rape culture" is anti-intellectual. John Leo's piece on it is must-reading.

Let's all work together to have processes that protect the innocent from wrongful charges and convictions, and let's all work together to eradicate sexual violence. Concern about rape and about false rape claims are not mutually exclusive. See here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lindenwood University: Student who 'made up' assault no longer enrolled

ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KSDK) – School officials say the Lindenwood University student who is charged with falsely reporting a sexual assault-on campus is no longer enrolled at the university.

"We have zero tolerance for such action," university President Jim Evans said in a news release.

Earlier this month, Joanna Newberry, 21, told St. Charles police that she had been attacked in Butler Library by a man who threatened her and then tried to pull her clothes off. These allegations prompted the university to send out an alert to over 12,000 students warning them of an attempted sexual assault.

Newberry later told the St. Charles Police Department in a follow-up interview that she made the story up. She did not give a reason why.

She has been charged with filing a false police report, and faces up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. Newberry's arraignment is scheduled for April 28.

Source.

Five years of hell come to end: man cleared of rape because jury not told alleged victim previously made false claim of indecent assault

Story found here.

A Birmingham man who was found guilty of rape after jurors were not told his alleged victim had previously made a false claim of indecent assault has had his conviction quashed.

Three Appeal Court judges heard that the “mistake” by West Midlands Police was uncovered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) after Sajid Ali had spent two-and-a-half years in jail.

Mr Ali, from Aston, claimed he had suffered “five years of hell” since he was originally arrested.

He was handed a five-year sentence at the city’s crown court in January 2009 after being convicted of raping a woman he met while working as a floor-layer.

But the Court of Appeal, sitting at Birmingham Crown Court, heard that jurors who tried the 41-year-old were unaware that the alleged victim had made a bogus allegation of indecent assault five years earlier.

Police checks made before Mr Ali’s trial failed to find any trace of the previous incident.

It emerged during the appeal hearing that records uncovered by the CCRC showed the woman wrongly claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a stranger in Birmingham city centre in 2004.

CCTV footage taken at the time of the earlier incident showed the woman walking arm-in-arm with a man, and she later conceded she made the false report because she “regretted” her contact with him.

The Court of Appeal was told the background information about the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, should have been made available at Mr Ali’s trial.

Quashing Mr Ali’s conviction and ordering that there should not be a retrial, Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, said it was unclear why the CCRC had been able to find the information but West Midlands Police had not.

Directing the Chief Constable of the West Midlands Chris Sims to provide a report to the court explaining the blunder, Lord Thomas added: “It seems to us that the defendant is entitled to know why this matter arose.”

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Ali’s solicitor, Khuram Yaqub said his client had been through “five years of hell”.

Mr Yaqub commented: “He has always said from the outset that he is innocent.

“He is relieved that his conviction has been quashed but he is also upset and disappointed that this information was not found by the police.”

Friday, March 14, 2014

Girl sneaks boy into her room, then lies to father that she doesn't know him; father argues with boy and kills him

In Texas, a 16-year-old girl let a 17-year-old boy into her house, then sneaked him into her bedroom. One of her brothers told their father that someone was in her room, so the the father walked in and found the boy. The daughter told her father she didn't know who the boy was. The father and the boy argued. The father claimed he thought the boy was reaching for something. The father opened fire, killing the boy at the scene. The story is reported, among other places, here and here.

There are many well-known, genuine tragedies associated with false rape claims -- really awful things that result from rape lies. But we don't know enough about this case to include it among them. It is unclear whether the father shot the boy reasonably thinking that an intruder had sneaked into his daughter's room. We don't know what information was divulged when the father and the boy argued. It is our guess that parents have been finding teenage boys in their teenage daughters' rooms for as long as teenage daughters have had rooms, and that relatively few of those encounters have resulted in the death of the boy, regardless of the excuse about why the boys is there. That's because parents generally understand that, despite their disapproval of the arrangement, teenage girls and teenage boys often sneak around behind their parents' backs to find ways to have sex. In this case, it is possible that the father figured out or at least suspected the daughter was lying but was angry at her for engaging in illicit sex, so he made a terrible spur of the moment decision to "punish" her by directing his outrage on her boyfriend. Based on the limited information in the story, it strains credulity, at least a little, that a father would think a high school-age male stranger broke into his house at 2:00 a.m. and just happened to find his way into his high school-age daughter's bedroom.

Or, we could be wrong and the father might actually have thought the boy was an intruder and was there to rape his daughter. Then the question becomes whether he was reasonably acting in self-defense by shooting him.

Some of the comments under the story as reported by the New York Daily News are disturbing, but that's par for the Internet. Regarding the dead boy, one reader wrote: "Seems like he made a few bad decisions that night." Aother: "As a parent of a daughter, I say 'GOOD SHOOTING' (that boy won't be sneaking into another girl's room) . . . ." Another: ". . . the age of consent in Texas is 17. His daughter is 16 so as far as I am concerned he was there to rape her. He got what he deserved. I hope you don't have a daughter." (In fact, even if they were engaging in sexual relations, Texas has a Romeo and Juliet law that would have made this encounter lawful because he was just one year older than she is.)

Most of the commentators have no sympathy for the girl. Lying about rape is deplorable, no one needs to lecture this blogger about that. But in this case, the evil may be mitigated if, for example, the girl was in mortal fear of the wrath of her gun-toting father and blurted out something to save her own neck. (Not noble, to be sure, and stupid, but it doesn't seem to be on a par with, for example, rape liars who destroy taxi drivers because they didn't want to pay a fare, or the college woman who sent her classmate to prison for five years with a rape lie because she was "bored.")  We don't have enough facts.

In any event, if the girl blurted out the line because she knew her father would be outraged, the girl's lie is consistent with something Amanda Marcotte once wrote. "[T]he idea that it's shameful to just have sex because you want to" is "the reason that you have false rape accusations in the first place." Marcotte noted that "women who aren't ashamed of having sexual adventures . . . even ones that go bad-don't use rape accusations to cover up their choices. It's the women who are afraid they'll be called sluts if it gets out that make up these rape stories." (Or, in this case, a girl who knew her gun-toting father didn't approve of the relationship.) Amanda Hess once explained that given women's adherence to their expected gender role when it comes to sex, it is "inevitable," among other things, that a woman who "had desired the sex all along . . . must defend her femininity by saying that she had been coerced into sex."

Our bottom line: this was a terrible tragedy that should have been avoided. We're not ready to include this case on our list of tragedies that result from false rape claims.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Off-topic: Horrific attack, horrific reaction

Two Maryland teenage girls, 17 and 15, forced an autistic 16-year-old boy to copulate with a family pet, they assaulted him with a knife on multiple occasions, kicked in the groin, dragged around by his hair, and forced him to walk onto a partially frozen pond. When the boy fell through the ice, they didn't help him get out.  The girls made videos of their horrific attacks.

Lauren A. Bush, 17, was released from custody Wednesday on personal recognizance, online court records show, after she was charged as an adult with first-degree assault, false imprisonment, and soliciting a minor in the production of child pornography — offenses that allegedly occurred between early last December and early last month. Bush's 15-year-old accomplice was detained at a state juvenile facility to await a court hearing.

The headline at the Stir is a bit off: "Mean Girls Accused of Sexually Torturing Autistic Teen 'Beyond Comprehension'." ("Mean girls"? Really?) The Stir's writer opines, "I'd venture to guess that one or both of these girls don't have the best home lives . . . ." Better watch that humanizing the attackers, didn't go over well when CNN did it in another case. See here.

We post this story here because we saw the following comment under the story reported at The Stir and felt compelled to share it. It just more evidence that you can find any loony thing on the Internet if you bother to look:

Lawsuit by Player Expelled by Xavier U. After Rape Accusation Can Proceed

Another young man claims that a school bowed to a public outcry about rape to make him a scapegoat. Here is the story as reported here:

A judge has decided that most of the claims in a lawsuit by a former Xavier University basketball player, who has accused the Ohio university of damaging his reputation in a rushed decision to expel him after what he says was a false rape accusation, can proceed to trial, the Associated Press reported.

The university expelled Dezmine Wells in 2012 after another student accused him of raping her. But the woman later decided not to press charges, and a grand jury declined to indict Mr. Wells after hearing evidence in the case.

In a federal lawsuit filed in August, Mr. Wells accuses the university and its president, the Rev. Michael Graham, of sex discrimination, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and libel for injury to his reputation, among other claims.

Judge S. Arthur Spiegel of the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati dismissed two of the claims against Father Graham—those alleging sex discrimination and deliberate indifference—but let those claims against the university go forward.

Mr. Wells contends that the university and Father Graham used him as a scapegoat to demonstrate an aggressive response to sexual-assault allegations in the wake of two unrelated investigations of the university by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Xavier’s disciplinary hearing for Mr. Wells came one day after the university announced that it had reached an agreement with federal officials and would create new policies to protect victims of sexual assault and harassment. The following day, officials sent Mr. Wells a letter informing him that he had been found responsible for rape and was expelled.

The university has said that its handling of the case followed standard procedures for American universities. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the university said it was pleased that the court had dismissed some of the lawsuit’s claims and believes that Xavier will be vindicated once all the facts are known.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dartmouth's disturbing hostitlity to the rights of young men accused of sex offenses

Dartmouth College is cracking down on sexual assault. It is reasonable to expect that the reforms eventually enacted will be consistent with Dartmouth's hostility to the rights of young men accused of sex offenses.

Its Sexual Assault Awareness Program coordinator Amanda Childress recently asked, "Why could we not expel a student based on an allegation [of sexual assault]?"  The question is unworthy of any, much less a serious response, but instead of distancing itself from the remark, the administration defended it.

A couple of years ago, Dartmouth's Associate Dean of College for Campus Life April Thompson was talking about sexual assault hearings when she said this: "We are a college, a place of learning and teaching, so we have to think about what gives the accused the opportunity to learn." The mindset that the "accused" needs to be taught a lesson before an adjudication suggests a bias antithetical to the presumption of innocence, consonant with Dean Childress' rush-to-judgment mentality that assumes guilt based on a sexual assault accusation.

In 2011, while an investigation was ongoing over a sexual assault that police eventually determined "never happened," Dartmouth's Director of Safety and Security and College Proctor made problematic statements suggesting that an assault, in fact, occurred: “We want people to know when something like this happens so that they’re aware and can take precautions. Any time there’s an incident like this — any place on the campus — we have the same level of concern."  (When "something like" what occurs? A false rape claim?)

In 2011, Dartmouth welcomed Jackson Katz to campus to tell anyone who cared to listen that when it comes to sexual abuse, cautioning women to take the well-lit route back to their dorm doesn't get at the root cause of the problem. "The root cause," he said, "is men." Not "men who rape," just "men." Katz's shtick is that men need to raise their standards and stop being mere "bystanders"--men with "moral integrity" are needed "to break complicit male silence."  You see, men who would never dream of raping another human being are unindicted co-conspirators to rape.

It is little wonder that Dartmouth's procedures in sexual assault cases are appallingly insensitive to the accused. Unless simultaneous criminal charges have been filed, the accused student cannot have a lawyer participate in the proceedings. (Tellingly, the college itself does have the right to have an attorney present during the hearing, to offer "procedural or legal matters necessary to ensure a fair proceeding"; the college does not explain why this right is denied to the accused student.) The accused student doesn't have the right to cross-examine the accuser. The accuser has the right to close the proceedings to the public, even if the accused student wants it public to clear his name. Perhaps most chillingly, guilt is determined by a preponderance of evidence and a majority vote of the five-member (two students, two professors, and one administrator) disciplinary panel. As a result, if three of the panelists conclude that the accuser is ever-so-slightly likelier than not to have told the truth, the college will brand the accused student a rapist, even if the other two members of the panel are 100 percent convinced that he was innocent.

So now, Dartmouth is looking to get even tougher on sexual assault, if that's possible. Dartmouth's Panhellenic Council, a student body overseeing sororities, is leading the charge. It has made the following demand:

"All sex offenders found guilty of rape by the Committee On Standards must be expelled from the College immediately with absolutely no exceptions. . . . Additionally,the past offenses of accused perpetrators must be taken into account when determining the guilt of someone accused of rape or sexual assault."

The problems with the demand are numerous. We'll focus on three:

First, automatic expulsion for college students found guilty of sexual assault at colleges isn't going to curtail rape. It isn't going to keep a rapist from abusing women somewhere else, or even in the same place where the offense that led to his expulsion occurred. In a country where the majority of college students are commuters, booting a rapist out of school isn't going to stop him from frequenting the same off-campus hangouts where he committed his misdeeds as a student. If we were really serious about protecting women from rape, we would insist that every report be turned over to the professionals in law enforcement.

Second, a rule to stiffen the penalty for sexual assault likely will result in fewer adjudications of guilt, an effect not intended by its advocates. Where schools mandate extreme punishments for sexual assault, triers of fact are less likely to find guilt in doubtful cases because they know the consequences for the accused are extreme. In A Separate Crime of Reckless Sex, 72 U. Chi. L. Rev. 599, 655-56 (2005), Professors I. Ayres and K. Baker explained:
. . . if the . . . sanction is too strong, there is not likely to be widespread enforcement. . . . attempts to change a norm by severely punishing that which has previously been unaddressed or underenforced are often unsuccessful.

The simple fact is that the public at large often refuses to see the "nontraditional" [acquaintance] rapist as a rapist at all and therefore refuses to either mark him or punish him as such. After an acquittal in a well-publicized college gang rape, one juror explained that the main concern of some jurors was not wanting "to ruin the boys' lives." Decision makers may be willing to ruin the life of a "real rapist," but they will not impose comparable punishment for what they see as a less severe crime.
In schools where expulsion for sexual assault is mandated, it is reasonable to assume that even in cases where, technically, it is more likely than not that the accused is guilty, if there exists reasonable doubt about his guilt, most triers of fact will withhold the "death penalty" of expulsion and will find the accused "not guilty." The expulsion policy thus leads to a sort of jury nullification for doubtful sex cases, an unintended, but welcome, antidote for the harsh "Dear Colleague" letter. The get-tough-on-rape crowd has unwittingly struck a blow for the accused.

Third, the proposal that prior offenses must be taken into account when determining guilt echoes one of the most dangerous legislative "reforms" enacted by Congress to make getting a rape conviction easier. Federal Rule of Evidence 413 provides that "in a criminal case in which the defendant is accused of an offense of sexual assault, evidence of the defendant's commission of another offense or offenses of sexual assault is admissible, and may be considered for its bearing on any matter to which it is relevant." The jury is to be informed of the defendant's prior acts whether or not the defendant takes the stand.

For no other crime does the law allow such evidence to be admitted. Rule 413 was widely condemned by the overwhelming majority of lawyers, judges, legal organizations and law professors on the Advisory Committee on Evidence Rules, but Congress bowed to pressure from law-and-order types and women's groups and passed the law. R. Klein, An Analysis of Thirty-Five Years of Rape Reform: A Frustrating Search for Fundamental Fairness, 41 Akron L.Rev. 981, 1024 (2008).

 Professor Richard Klein pointed up a stark double-standard in the way this law treats the accused versus the way Rape Shield Laws treat rape accusers:
The rationale behind rape shield laws is that prior conduct of the victim should have no impact on an assessment of what occurred as to the incident on trial. But as to the defendant, evidence of prior conduct is to be allowed with the inference that "if he did it in the past, he did it this time as well." Such a determination, one not based on fact or evidence, was exactly what rape shield laws were designed to, and do, guard against as to the alleged victim. The accuser is protected, the accused is not.
R. Klein, supra at 1024.

We feel like we are arguing with the wind. Anyone who dares to express concern for the rights of the presumptively innocent -- even Brett Sokolow, who has done more to advance the anti-rape agenda on campus than anyone -- is branded a rape apologist or a victim blamer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Public outcry over rape in the military: innocents beware

The "public outcry" that results when rape becomes politicized has been a cause of injustice to the wrongly accused likely since time began. One need not look back to the hanging trees of the Old South for such injustice. This blog has chronicled a veritable cornucopia of it in recent years. Public outcries can skew the decision-making processes of prosecutors, college administrators, and military leaders and sometimes prompt them to bring charges, to proceed with cases, or to take other actions that enhance the likelihood of punishing the innocent. Here's a news story about one such public outcry, this one in the military:

Army sexual assault case paused while false testimony evidence considered

FORT BRAGG, N.C., March 10 (UPI) -- Emails turned over by the prosecution in the sexual assault case against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair raised questions that the Pentagon may have interfered with a possible plea bargain.

Col. James L. Pohl, the judge, dismissed the jury for the day Monday to consider new evidence that senior officials at Fort Bragg, N.C., discussed fears Sinclair's primary accuser may have falsely testified. The defense team accuses the Pentagon of unlawfully interfering to prohibit the offer of a plea deal as it faces increased pressure to clamp down on a sexual assault crisis in the military.

The lead prosecutor, Lt. Col. William Helixon, resigned from the case after he was unable to persuade his superiors to dismiss the most serious charges against Sinclair. Emails revealed over the weekend showed the Army's most senior lawyer at Fort Bragg had also expressed concerns about the accuser's testimony.

“It is possible that she was not truthful,” Col. Michael Lacey, the senior military lawyer at Fort Bragg’s XVIII Airborne Corps, wrote to the Corps commanding officer, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, following the accuser's January 7 testimony about finding an old iPhone that contained messages between herself and Sinclair. Forensic analysis was shown to conflict with her testimony.

Sinclair, 51, is accused of forcing a captain to perform oral sex and threatened to kill her and her family if she revealed their affair. The accuser, 34, confirmed she had previously engaged in a consensual relationship with Sinclair.

Sinclair also faces charges of adultery, which is a crime under military law, and conduct unbecoming an officer. He has offered to plead guilty to those lesser charges and retire at a reduced rank if the military agreed to drop the sexual assault charges.

The judge has previously rejected several motions from the defense to dismiss the sexual assault charges.

SOURCE: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2014/03/10/Army-sexual-assault-case-paused-while-false-testimony-evidence-considered/7181394467990/

Monday, March 10, 2014

This is how nutty anti-rape activists have become

Twenty years ago, the late Pulitzer Prize winning columnist David Broder wrote about "that damnable duality of human nature" where noble impulses coexist with the penchant to destroy human life. Would anyone other than a lunatic suggest that by acknowledging this reality, Mr. Broder was absolving murderers of blame for their misdeeds?

Fast forward to present day. In an interview with a student newspaper, University of Iowa President Sally Mason said that the university’s goal is to “never have another sexual assault occur.” She added, that’s probably “not a realistic goal given human nature.”

"Human nature"? What on earth is President's Mason's evidence for this epiphany?

Could it possibly be the reality that rape has been present since the dawn of man? Just as murder, assault, robbery, and every pretty much every social pathology have been present?

In other words, nothing in President Mason's off-hand statement was in any sense incorrect, controversial, or even insightful. In any other setting, her innocuous words would have been quickly forgotten.

But we are not living in just "any other setting." The anti-rape crusaders jumped on the president's comment and have read into it misogyny and victim-blaming. The comment prompted a group, including university researcher Chelsea Bacon, to start a petition called “Not in My Nature.” In addition, about 20 students, including Bacon, interrupted an annual Presidential lecture by standing in front of Mason with signs. During the interruption, Mason expressed support for their activism, and promised the university will make progress on the issue.

Then, there was an on-campus protest about the president's remarks where Ms. Bacon said this: “Human nature is a common term people use to take the blame from the perpetrator and put it onto other sources. Not only is it unfounded and irresponsible, it’s very harmful to victims.” She added: “It perpetuates the idea that there are other causes of sexual assault other than a perpetrator. It’s not what she was wearing, it’s not how much she drank. It’s what the perpetrator wanted to do.”

That Ms. Bacon would read such malevolence and backwardness into President Mason's remarks, and to accuse her of victim blaming, is chilling in the extreme. It is reminiscent of  similar overreactions we've seen recently from gender zealots.  See, e.g., here. These sorts of hysterics stifle real dialogue. They put everyone on notice that when it comes to sexual assault, they need to walk on eggshells because even innocuous comments made by people with no tolerance for rape can provide an excuse to be outraged. And for people like President Mason, it's easier to just humor them than to tell them they are behaving like children.

A former editor of the Pitt News was talking about this very phenomenon when he wrote the following: ". . . these straw-men battles undercut legitimate causes. Advocacy groups stop looking forward and content themselves with ritualistic passion plays. Finding big targets on which to pin 'sexist' or 'oppressor' is a tired tradition. . . . . No one is talking about issues, just the social theater surrounding them. We need true dialogue, debate, education. Not grandstanding and moralizing."

Why should anyone be surprised by this overreaction to President Mason's remarks? We are stranded in an era where calling for due process in rape cases (see herehere and here) is considered "victim blaming." So is calling for people to keep an open mind when it comes to rape accusations, and preaching safety, and failing to treat a false rape claim as if it were an actual rape, and calling for men and boys accused of sexual assault to be anonymous. They use the term "victim blaming" so loosely it means nothing at all. And the folks who scream "victim blaming" the loudest are often are at the forefront in rushing to judgment to assume the accused is guilty based on nothing more than an accusation. See here and here.

It's time to have an adult dialogue about these issues free of shrill overreactions. The problem seems to be that the only persons making themselves heard on these critical issues are naive, young zealots, chronically offended, ready to sniff out gender oppression even if they have to invent it. We are reminded of the words of Amanda Marcotte, writing about the young Wellesley College feminists in an uproar over the sleepwalking statue: ". . . one thing I've been trying to keep in mind is that the women getting wound up about the statue are really young and just starting to explore the identity of 'feminist.' College is a time for taking everything too far, from drinking beer to sports fandom to sexual drama to using your fancy new vocabulary words picked up in women's studies courses."

Here's another example where we need more adults at the table and fewer children.

On the need to insure that outrage does not run roughshod over accuracy and due process

Excerpt from Bridgette Dunlap's even-handed article:
In a society with a wrongful conviction problem, where the poor and people of color are disproportionately targeted by the criminal law, we need to take the protections for the accused we have seriously. When Anonymous demands that accused persons apologize or face their fury, they are demanding they give up their Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves. When they turn accused teens into famous rapists, they poison the jury pool, jeopardizing their right to a fair trial. You may feel in your heart he’s guilty, but the government still has to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Read it all here.